Photo: Joseph Morrison
Iann Dior Is Ready To Take Over Music And Beyond: "I Don't Want To Be Looked At As Just An Artist"
Just three years into his career, iann dior has gone from viral SoundCloud star to topping the Billboard Hot 100 (with his 24kGoldn duet, the 5x-Platinum hit "Mood") and collaborating with the likes of Lil Uzi Vert and Lil Baby. As he prepares for the Jan. 21 release of his second LP, On To Better Things, the Puerto Rico-born, Texas-raised artist is ready to take his quickly-ascending career to the next level.
"It's a very personal album to me," the singer/songwriter (born Michael Ian Olmo) tells GRAMMY.com. "I'm very excited for my fans to hear it, and to hear my side of the last year-and-a-half."
On To Better Things hears the genre-fluid dior experiment with smooth pop-punk beats and rap-rock crossovers, connecting with frequent collaborators Travis Barker and Machine Gun Kelly, and producer Taz Taylor, among others. The album also sees dior take new ownership over his creative vision, namely by directing his own music videos, starting with November's "Let You."
According to dior, On To Better Things is also just the first step in his 2022 takeover. After releasing his album on Friday, dior is heading to London for a month to record his next project and planning a 2022 tour — but he’s already looking far beyond music.
GRAMMY.com caught up with iann dior about his new album, breaking genre boundaries, and his plan for superstardom.
You just wrapped up your first UK show in London last week, what was that like?
It was really cool. I think I fell in love with London. I'm going back next month, I'm really excited.
Are you planning on performing at any other first-time destinations this year?
Oh yeah, there's gonna be a bunch of first-time places this year. I've got a pretty exciting year coming up.
Let's talk about your new album! As your second LP and coming off a great year, were you feeling any pressure while making this project as opposed to your 2019 debut, Industry Plant?
Not pressure so much — I was more so feeling like this is the first project that I've fully engaged with. I was kind of by myself making this. So it's a very personal album to me, and I'm very excited for my fans to hear it, and to hear my side of the last year-and-a-half.
And — something to get my fans excited — we're already working on the next album. The tour isn't until later in the year, so I'm gonna take this time — that's why I'm going to London for the next month. I'm gonna record music out there and, you know, just catch a vibe. This next album is gonna be more of where I'm at now, versus where I was before.
You said you felt more on your own making this album. What do you mean by that?
Well, I made the songs [on the album], so I started to feel like I should be directing the videos, too, because I know what the visuals should look like.
This album feels so personal because it's the first time I've actually dug this deep to make an album that corresponds all the way through — like, you feel like you're getting told a story. That's the goal we were going for [with the videos], and I'm really excited to release them. We did the "complicate it" video and we're gonna shoot one for "thought it was," as well as other songs on the album.
You explore more pop and punk rock sounds on this album. Do those genres resonate the most with you?
Yeah, they do. You know, the crazy thing is rock music just comes out so naturally to me and it's the funnest [sic] music for me to make at the moment. I feel like I can fully express myself, which I think is cool. One thing about me is I can't sit in one genre. I'll try different genres all the time, and those are just the ones I've fallen in love with the most.
Since being genre-fluid is important to you, have artists like Machine Gun Kelly and Trippie Redd — who have successfully pivoted from rap, to punk, to rock — been an inspiration to you?
You know, those are all my friends, so of course. I think it's cool that the rock scene is coming back and I'm glad that everybody's f—ing with this. It makes me happy, and it makes me feel like now I can express myself in that genre and really take it to where I wanna be at. It's an amazing time to put [genre-defying] music like that out.
Travis Barker, who produced some of the album, has been creating music in the rock-rap crossover space for years. What was working with him like?
Every time we work with Travis, it's a no-brainer. That's who I go to for any of my rock music because he really taps in on the sound, and blending it with rap is something I really like to do. And Travis was one of the first people to be like, "Ok, I understand where you're trying to go with this." When we made "Sick and Tired" [in 2020] — that song was the perfect hybrid of rock and rap.
What kinds of music and artists did you grow up listening to?
My dad was mostly listening to JAY-Z and showed me [rock bands] like The Fray. He showed me a couple rap songs that I wasn't supposed to be listening to or wasn't allowed to listen to — he would tell me, "Be quiet about it," and he'd let me listen to them. [Laughs.]
Spanish is your first language and you've said you want to cross over into Latin music in the past. Can fans expect to hear a Spanish song from you this year?
There's definitely Spanish songs involved, I'll tell you that much. We've worked on some, but I'm just waiting for the right time [to release them]. I think the summer might be the right time. This summer you might be getting a Spanish song from me.
You've also said you'd like to collaborate with Bad Bunny. Are you hoping to make that happen this year?
First of all, I have a lot of respect for him, with us both being from Puerto Rico. Coming from that background, I know it's not easy getting to where I'm at, let alone where he's at. So, I have a lot of respect for him. If I was gonna put out a Spanish record, I would love to do it with him. Especially for my first time around.
You're looking to get into acting as well. Do you think taking a more active role in your music videos has helped prepare you for that?
Yeah, I'm definitely trying to add acting to my world very soon. And with [directing] the videos, I get to do that without fully going into that lane. But 100 percent I want to get into acting and eventually direct movies.
Last year you released your first collaborative jewelry line with VITALY and you're also the new face of MCM's spring 2022 campaign. Could you see yourself getting more into fashion and design in the future?
One thousand percent. I think that's gonna happen before the acting. That's the direction I'm headed in right now.
You've said a few times that you want to go down in history as one of the greats. Do you think being multi-faceted — branching off into acting, fashion and directing — is a big part of that?
Yeah, 100 percent. I don't want to be looked at as just an artist, I want to be looked at as a person that was good at what he did, regardless of what it was.
Anything you'd like to say to your fans?
To my fans: This is your world, don't let anybody else take it over. You create your future. And I'm very excited to be putting this album out — it's been a long time since I've dropped an album. I want my fans to know that I love them, and without them, I wouldn't be here.